At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. Matthew 27:51,52
This is Passion week. The time between Palm Sunday and Easter. All around the world, Christians are remembering the events from two thousand years ago. One of the things that struck me this year as I listened to the Passion story was the above passage. We often skip over it in the total context of Jesus trials, crucifixion and his resurrection.
I have often thought about the veil being torn form the top to the bottom at the moment of Jesus death on the cross. The veil was approximately 60 feet high. From Jewish tradition, it was about 4 inches wide and, according to Exodus, consisted of blue, purple and scarlet material including linen.
The veil in the temple being torn is a big deal. It should not go unnoticed. It happened. It is a historical fact. It’s significance and importance should not be ignored. The veil in the temple was not just a simple cloth that separated the inner Temple – the holy of holies.
The holy of holies was the room which was initially to house the ark of the covenant which contained the tablets of the covenant. This was where God resided to the nation Israel until its destruction by the Romans in AD 70, as predicted by Jesus.
Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and then, only once a year on Yom Kippur, which was the Jewish Day of Atonement. All others were forbidden to enter, and the veil kept all other people out. The Jews only had indirect access to God through the high priest.
This is a historical fact, yet most point to the empty tomb as the demonstration of the deity of Jesus. What surprises me is that the Disciples lost it after Jesus died. For three days, they were in disarray, having forgotten Jesus’ promise to return. They somehow ignored what happened in the Temple other than their belief that Jesus was dead.
They forgot He said he would return three days later. They ignored the tearing of the veil which was in the temple close by Golgotha. They had obvious problems with their short-term memory, although the older I get, the more sympathetic I am to faulty memory.
Not only was the veil torn, but it was torn from the top to the bottom. If it had been torn from the bottom up, one could argue that it was torn by human hands. But it was torn from the top down, which demonstrates that it was not torn by human intervention.
The earth quaked and the rocks were split. Seems to me that it is kind of hard to miss all of this, but somehow, the Disciples missed it. They thought Jesus was dead. Period. Until John saw the empty tomb three days later, they lost their faith. John had a eureka moment when he visited the empty tomb. Jesus was alive after all.
We’re like the Disciples at times, including our memories. We forget the temple veil was torn. We forget that the physical separation of us from God was removed once and for all. We don’t have to wait for one day a year to approach God. We have 24/7 access. The Old Covenant has passed, and the New Covenant of access to God through Jesus emerged.
Our challenge is to remember that Jesus death and resurrection was surrounded by historical events that often get overlooked. We are often like the Disciples who were so focused on the crucifixion that they lose sight of Jesus predictions from obvious evidence. Jesus died for us but was resurrected. He is Alive!
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Be sure your mentee understands the historical facts surrounding the events of Passion week. The tearing of the veil is a historical fact, and symbolizes our ability to know God directly.
FURTHER STUDY: The significance of the torn veil: https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-veil-torn.html
WORSHIP: Listen to Travis Cottrell sing “In Christ Alone/On Solid Rock”
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